A Blessing

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She sighs and rests her little hand on my chest as I protectively curl my body around hers. I gaze into her peaceful slumbering face and realize how blessed I am. It’s staggering. This beautiful miracle that sleeps in my arms each night and finds comfort in my presence – she is mine. My body grew her. My body nourishes her. My body comforts her, protects her.

This is my dream come true. I am a mother. I felt the flutters in my belly that became strong kicks. I pushed this little person out of my body and into the world. I feed her with nothing but my body, as God intended. I feel her pain when she cries, soar on the wings of her laughter, and revel in each new discovery she makes. I know what she needs and when she needs it. I understand her moods and feelings. I never want to leave her side.

But I have to work, to buy food and to have health insurance. For the basics, not for luxuries. So I must leave her, after having her in constant contact with me for a whole year. Eight months in my belly. Four months in my arms. Forever in my heart. This is the only life she knows. It feels like the only life I know – it is the only life I want to know. But I must leave her and go to work. Yes, she’s safe and well-cared for while I’m away. But how I miss her. And she cries for me. It’s not just gas, I know, because I know her as no one else can. And my arms ache to hold her. The drive home has never been so long.

I’m here, my love, my little one. Mommy is here. I bring her to my breast and she giggles with anticipation. She touches my face and smiles. And the long day melts away. We are together. Nothing else matters.

It took a long time to get here, to motherhood. It is worth every tear, every sacrifice. I know how blessed I am and I am deeply thankful. So tonight, the 147th night of holding my heart in my arms, I say a prayer of heartfelt thanks for the most precious of gifts – my daughter.

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The Best Things in Life

I don’t much care about fashion or gadgets (I just want to look like I fit somewhere in the current decade and have a device that works). I don’t much care about travel, beyond the occasional getaway. I don’t much care about the so-called social scene.

I’ve been married for 10 years and experimented in each of the above pursuits. I’ve found each of them to be at best, a disappointment; at worst, a trap. Clever distractions to divert attention away from what truly matters in life – faith and family.

Let’s face it: Fashion is not much more than a lovely racket. Cleverly arranged pieces that appeal to the eye and make one feel “I simply MUST have that!” And after you’ve worn your perfectly paired finery, you realize you’ve spent more than you should have – on something nonessential. And just give it a season – you will find that you rarely, if ever, use it again. (Unless, of course, you are the type to choose essential pieces in classic colors and styles. In that case, you may use those pieces season after season.) And the never-ending parade of smartphones, tablets, and other devices is clearly just another trap, if you MUST have the latest and greatest. There will always be a new one.

On to travel. Don’t get me wrong. This girl has heard (but never answered) the call of the Australian Outback, the siren song of Paris, the timeless calm of the English countryside. But simply put, these things cost money. Quite a bit of it. And after the headiness of the experience has faded, all you have left are some pricey souvenirs and way too many photos. And perhaps debt. I may be in the minority here, but that seems a very fleeting source of happiness for such a high price. I’d rather have something I can hold on to. Besides an overpriced miniature Eiffel Tower.

As for the social scene, if I have to impress someone with my experiences in the world of fashion and/or travel (or anything else, for that matter!) to be accepted into a particular circle, I don’t want to be a part of that circle anyway!

Realistically, the majority of our lives are not spent in any of the above pursuits (unless we actually work in an industry relating to any or all of them). The majority of our lives are spent in making a living and, well, living. Why can’t making the most of the life we are building be THE pursuit? Instead of the next outfit, trip, or party, why aren’t we focused on the people that make up our lives?

The best things in life are not free. They cost, not money, but time and effort. Any relationship will give only what you invest in it. Therefore, I’m not going to fritter away precious moments with those I love. I’m going to enjoy them and truly love them. I married my husband because I wanted to spend the rest of my life with him, not just my spare time. I’ve found my calling: it is being a dedicated wife, mother, sister, daughter, aunt, and friend. The latest fashion will be whatever I can afford. The latest smartphone will be the one I get at a discount. The dream vacation will be the one I spend with my family – anywhere. My social life is full of beautiful people who know how to have fun – with children and pets, in a casual atmosphere, where there is no pressure to impress. Because in my world, my husband’s laugh, a sincere “thank you” from a family member, hugs and smiles from the children, my dog’s wagging tail – are the beautiful, intangible things of true value. And I wouldn’t change that for anything.

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Liberation

Those who participated in women’s suffrage and the women’s liberation movement had good intentions, I’m sure. But somewhere along the road to liberation, something went terribly wrong.

Now, don’t think that I do not appreciate having legal rights as well as varied options as to apparel. But I don’t appreciate being “liberated” from the hold of stay-laces and apron strings only to be delivered into the stranglehold of corporate America. In an economy where every penny counts, I’m thankful that I have a means of earning necessary income. But I strongly resent the fact that most households are now dependent on the wife and mother holding a job outside the home. Women have been so “liberated” from their traditional role that most cannot live in accord with that role, even if that is their heart’s desire. Or worse yet, some must fill the traditional role in addition to working outside of the home to bring in necessary income and/or healthcare benefits. And when I reference necessary income, I mean just that. Not working for “my OWN money” or the ability to acquire luxuries, but simply the necessary provisions for life – food, housing, healthcare, and education for the children.

It appears to me that something is terribly wrong when, in a free society, a woman is free to choose a corporate career, but is not free to choose the role of mother and wife – raising her own children and running a clean, healthy, efficient household.

This is not to say that women are not capable of excelling in any given career path. The issue here is choice. We can choose to be a CEO, managing partner, or a humble entry-level associate. But for most of us, the choice of the oldest and most time-honored career for a woman is simply not an option. Some women must resort to prescription drugs in order to function at a job away from all that they love – simply to provide the necessities. The fact that it must come to that is just wrong on so many levels.

I know I’ve written on this topic in the past, but it is close to my heart and something that I feel quite strongly about. Frankly, I’d rather be laced into a corset and spend the day in a hot kitchen and/or caring for cranky children than be backed into the corner that we modern women find ourselves in. But we must eat and have a roof over our heads, so pop a Xanax and get on with it.

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Random Thoughts, Quotes, and Pearls of Wisdom

• Good friends are truly priceless. Treasure them.

• The ability to walk at a vigorous pace for any space of time is something to be very grateful for.

• Take full ownership of your health. No one can take care of you better than yourself. (Except God.)

• There are few things as endearing as a fuzzy Greyhound snout in your face; chattering teeth telling you “I’m so happy you’re here! I love you!”

• Banana pancakes are special, not just because they taste good, but also because they represent slowing down to enjoy simple pleasures. (Just ask Jack Johnson.)

• There is nothing as precious as a child. If more adults put children’s best interests ahead of their own (truly, not spoiling them) the world would be a much better place.

• Fathers, be good to your daughters; daughters will love like you do. Girls become lovers who turn into mothers, so mothers, be good to your daughters too. – John Mayer

• Animals are one of God’s greatest gifts to mankind. They make us laugh, they show us beauty and nobility, they comfort us.

• The Lion King is full of important life lessons: the Circle of Life, the past can hurt but you learn from it, life’s not fair, leave your behind in your past (or something like that), and Hakuna Matata!

• Be a first rate version of yourself, not a second rate version of someone else. – Judy Garland

• Family is family, regardless of the past, annoying habits, embarrassing behavior, or personality clashes. Love them, just don’t let their mistakes define you. And remember, you make mistakes too – don’t let that define you either; let it make you more understanding.

• Life’s like an hourglass glued to the table… So… Just breathe… – Anna Nalick

• Repeat this to yourself each day until you believe it:

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• Right now I’m looking at you and I can’t believe you don’t know you’re beautiful! – One Direction

• Last, but certainly not least:

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Of Careers, Values, and What Really Matters

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I’ve often had the thought that if all women could simply do the important jobs that God intended for them, then, well, what a wonderful world it would be.

In the midst of a downward spiral of disillusionment and more than one “Jerry Maguire” moment, I began to wonder why women today are expected to have a career in the corporate jungle. Ask any modern housewife or stay-at-home mom – they can tell you they’ve encountered a disdainful attitude from those who believe that the traditional roles for women are menial and inconsequential. This attitude has always baffled me, as the traditional housewife/mother role is perhaps one of the most important and influential positions to hold, in the grand scheme of things.

Consider this: when you are primary caregiver to a child, providing a warm, loving environment, proper nourishment for body and mind, along with guidance and boundaries to shape a nascent personality, you are investing in the future. Your efforts to raise a child that eventually becomes a healthy, balanced, responsible adult member of society comprise the most worthwhile and rewarding career a woman can have. If each mother could invest in her children this way, then healthy, balanced, responsible adults would number in the millions, and the world would be a very different place. There is a reason why it is the woman who carries the child in her body for nine months and has the capability to produce food for the infant from her own body for an almost indefinite period of time after birth. It is because more than any other person in the child’s life, the mother’s bond with and influence on that child has the greatest impact for years to come. The absence of this bond is just as influential – to the child’s detriment. So why are women expected to relinquish their precious infants to someone else’s care after a just few months of maternity leave, to return to a career that can never be as meaningful as that which is most natural – and be happy about it? Why, if a woman finds a way to stay home and focus all her energies on raising her own child, is she looked down on by some as “just a stay-at-home mom?”

This disdain is not reserved for stay-at-home moms only. Those women who do not have children but are able to stay home in a traditional housewife role also receive a dose of the contempt reserved for non-career women. Even women who hold part-time jobs outside the home are often asked, “Do you want to work full-time?” and, “Do you plan to try for a promotion?” When the answer is no, the response is often incredulous or scornful.

Why is a career viewed as the end-all, be-all goal for people in general? Why is a woman expected to “succeed” in a corporate career while also juggling motherhood and running a household? Something is quite wrong with this picture. Why are the most important things in life pushed aside or put on hold while we pursue meaningless career goals? Family is everything, and those who put this treasure on the back burner in order to achieve a lucrative career or high-status position always live to regret it.

In this time of economic decline, some are beginning to appreciate that the assets of most worth and significance that we have cannot be measured in dollars and cents, nor in material possessions or prestige. They are measured in small hours, little wonders – a baby’s first steps, a child’s laughter, a walk in the park, holding hands with a loved one. It’s never too late to stop and embrace a higher set of values – our families will thank us for it.

Stress Management

Those that know me personally or have been following this blog regularly are aware that my family and I have been through difficulties recently. My Grandfather lost his battle with cancer on May 19th. His suffering was an ordeal this family will not forget; as my father put it, “That’s a sight you will never get out of your mind.” An unrecognizable emaciated body ravaged by a merciless disease, struggling for each breath, in a drug-induced stupor is something we are not likely to forget.

In this time of grief, my mother also has serious medical issues of her own on which we await results; another dear family member was rushed to the hospital for an emergency procedure just last week. Mourning for one and worrying for the others, combined with the everyday stressors of work, neighbors, finances and more have taken their toll on us in different ways. For myself, the stress response is physical. The past days this week have been rather miserable, with lightheadedness and intestinal distress, my body’s usual response to acute emotional stress.

Sadly, in today’s economic climate, one needs to be on one’s toes. But it is rather difficult to be on one’s toes when there has been a death in the family and one is concerned for the health and welfare of other family members. The difficulty is compounded when the body under stress decides it has had enough and proceeds to temporarily break down. As discussed in my previous post, modern attitudes and behaviors toward grieving are not as sympathetic as they once were. After a few days of bereavement leave, one must jump right back into the fray of daily life as if nothing had happened!

So how is one to find some equilibrium, some semblance of serenity amidst the upheaval? The answer, more often than not, lies in nature. Be it a tree-lined walk,

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a shady spot to sit,

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or wide open spaces,

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time spent in nature has a way of grounding and calming the most distraught of us. It may not mend our problems, but it soothes our psyche and comforts us on deeper level. Perhaps it’s because on a cellular level, we are made of the same elements as the earth. Perhaps it’s because nature brings us closer to God – as it is His gift to us.

Part of this healing that nature does can be found in our four-legged companions. The benefits of owning a pet are a recurring theme here on Diverse Philosophies, because I have personally experienced the life-altering effects of having companion animal in my life. Taking a walk in a serene natural spot with a dog is perhaps the best therapy available. The key is finding – or making – the time for it.

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Family and true friends are precious gifts to cherish. I deeply appreciate the support I have received during this trying time. But I realize it is up to myself alone to take control and find a way to manage my stress levels so that I can be all that I need to be for those I love. And I suspect the answer may be found where there are trees and tranquility.

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Mourning

The call came early Saturday morning. I leapt from bed to prepare to leave. Ten minutes later, I was informed that my haste was for naught. He was gone. At 7:03 am on May 19th 2012, my Grandfather slipped away from this life.

I spent most of the day at my Grandparents’ home in somber calm, unsure of what to do, trying my best to be of comfort to my relatives.

Now, almost a week later, as I deal with the grief, I long for a simpler time – when mourning was visible, accepted and expected. The Victorian Era comes to mind, with it’s set traditions of attire and conduct. With the laxity of tradition nowadays, how is one to convey the fact that one is grieving without making a verbal statement?

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The mourning wreath on the door and the black garb worn by family in those days were a clear visual clue that there had been a recent death in the family. Duration of wear and extent of mourning attire varied depending on one’s relationship with the deceased, with widows wearing all black (full mourning) for a few years and household servants wearing a simple black armband for several months.

In this day and age, black is considered a fashionable color and therefore worn by many almost constantly. At least half of my wardrobe consists of black clothing. How would anyone know I’m mourning? If I was to place a black mourning wreath on my front door, who would understand it’s meaning? I am left with no other course but to verbally inform those who ask me what is wrong that I have lost someone. As for those who do not notice or think to ask, they have no idea that for the time being, I could use a bit of consideration.

It often strikes me that in our quest for an easier and improved life, we have succeeded in making life more complicated and stressful than it needs to be. By breaking with sensible traditions in the name of “freedom” we have encumbered ourselves with previously unknown burdens. And a grieving family does not need additional burdens.